Newsreels under Pressure Abé Mark Nornes
|Birth of Newsreel, 1968|
Newsreel Related Screenings
“I see no difference at all between the avant-garde film and the avant-garde newsreel, because a real newsreel, a newsreel which could help man to get out of where he is, must be in the avant-garde of humanity, must contain and be guided by the highest and most advanced dreams of man.”
—Jonas Mekas (The Village Voice, February 29, 1968)
Our announcement that we were doing a special program on Newsreel initially caused problems, as many people assumed this would be a special program of news films. I later realized that this was a natural assumption to make, and that one couldn’t expect people to instantly make the connection with the U.S. film production group Newsreel formed by such important figures as Robert Kramer and Jon Jost. While annoyed at my own dim-wittedness and lack of awareness, I also reflected that it might be a good idea to actually include some rare news films in the program. And this was how the project started. To put it another way, it was the misunderstanding of those around me that seems to have made the program freer.
As this is a special program, it would normally be considered appropriate to screen important films from different periods of Newsreel’s history (in fact, that was my initial plan). However, the project took a slightly different course from the outset, and rather than getting back on track, we decided to go further and further off course. Having taken a round-about route, with the advice of many people, we eventually settled into a particular direction (just as we were running out of time), and concentrated on four main themes:
“Birth of Newsreel, 1968” is comprised mainly of works produced at the inception of the Newsreel group, brought together by Jonas Mekas in response to the 1968 anti-Vietnam War protests. “Women’s Newsreel” includes works by Christine Choy, former Newsreel member and juror for our International Competition. “Bullet Films” gives insights into the links between global film-related networks and Ogawa Productions and their influence, and “Internet Activism” examines images broadcast over the internet, currently the biggest tool for building solidarity.
April 27, screened as part of “Birth of Newsreel, 1968,” was the only film ever produced by Newsreel’s Chicago chapter, and is so elusive that even Jon Jost, who was involved in it, says he hasn’t seen the film since it was made. Also, the third film in the Sanrizuka series, Three Day War in Narita (Ogawa Productions; shown as part of “Bullet Films”) was influenced by Newsreel and made quickly to fill an urgent screening request—I’m delighted that a new print will be shown as the festival’s opening film. I’m sure you will be able to experience on a real level the passion and elation of those at the center of the struggle.
I would also like you to take a look at the sub-catalog for this program. We have done away with the traditional pamphlet, and gone for an “endless” catalog, the aim being to make it in file format and keep on adding articles right up to the end. I would be delighted if everyone involved could add something during the festival to make this sub-catalog more complete. We hope to deliver days of avant-garde “Yamagata Newsreel” of the kind that Jonas Mekas described.
Finally, I have received the opinions and advice of a great many people in putting together this program, and would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks.